From the Magazine: Fonz's Returns With Victory
Updated: Thursday, November 22, 2001 6:54 PM
Posted: Saturday, November 17, 2001 8:40 PM
Published in the Nov. 24 issue of The Blood-Horse
Photo: AP/Benoit Photo
Fonz's defeats Popular in the Hollywood Prevue.
Sure, he looked strong, and there seemed to be some promise in his bloodlines. Then again, the chestnut colt had hind ankles questionable enough that most buyers simply turned their backs. For trainer David LaCroix, the $10,500 price tag represented a bargain, a gamble, a chance. There really was no further reason for him to think, or to dream, any bigger.
But there is something magical, something eternally optimistic, about a young horse with untapped potential. Perhaps it is unfair to put such hopes onto the mere ability of a single creature. The possibilities are remote. The odds do not augur well.
But just the same, it is that flame of promise that kindles these visions, and for LaCroix, the images are now depicted in Technicolor. Named for a local beachside haunt--and yes, the restaurant itself traces circuitously to Arthur Fonzarelli himself--Fonz's, that shunned yearling of a summer ago, took a big step in the right direction on Nov. 17 with a determined half-length win in the $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III).
"He's overcome my expectations, yeah," LaCroix said the morning after the Prevue. "He's a bit better than I thought."
The gelding certainly hasn't done anything wrong to this point. LaCroix felt Fonz's was something special, but even he admits to being a bit surprised when the son of Out of Place aired by four lengths in his career debut last May. His hopes were confirmed two weeks later when Fonz's just missed winning a minor five-furlong stakes at Hollywood.
The efforts, however, took their toll, as various--though minor--leg problems kept him on the shelf nearly six months. Apparently, he hasn't skipped a beat.
There was a pell-mell rush for the lead at the start of the Prevue, and Fonz's, along with Roman Dancer, Eastern shipper Heavyweight Champ, and Popular, found himself in the thick of a :45.10 half-mile. Roman Dancer, though 7-5 off his blowout score in Oak Tree's Sunny Slope Stakes, started to fade, however, and heading for home, Heavyweight Champ beat his own retreat as well.
It was Popular, a maiden-winning Saint Ballado colt trained by Bob Baffert, who was in command, and though he looked strong, he wasn't able to shake loose. Under Laffit Pincay Jr., Fonz's dug in and caught Popular, edging clear by a half-length in 1:22.03. Labamta Babe, a Skywalker colt making his first start for Bobby Frankel, finished 3 1/2 lengths farther back in third.
Owned by La Croix' Meadowbrook Farm and close friend Gene Anderson, Fonz's seemed none the worse for wear the next morning, demanding carrots with authority and acting like his Prevue battle took nothing from his reserves. Though the effects of a trying race and a lengthy layoff are sometimes not manifested immediately, LaCroix acknowledged he had Fonz's primed for a strong effort off the bench. That, in turn, gives him solace the callow gelding can step to a new level on Dec. 15, when he meets Officer and Siphonic in the $500,000 Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). The tools, he feels, are in place.
"He should be able to handle it breeding-wise," LaCroix said, knowing the Futurity's 8 1/2 furlongs present a crucial obstacle to hurdle. "I think what makes him special is he's got all the aspects--ability, competitiveness, smarts. He knows the game. And he's got the sensibility."
And now, he's got those close to him finally dreaming big. Ayanna's Moccasin
The weekend fireworks managed to stay centrally located, as Ayanna, located just the other side of Fonz's in Hollywood's Barn 66 South, never gave 'em a chance in the Prevue's counterpart, the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes, the following afternoon.
Ayanna's 3 1/2-length score--done in cruise control--was a far cry from the young filly's last outing, a forgettable try in the one-mile Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I). Her meltdown began with the sweltering weather, according to trainer Kory Owens, and when the daughter of In Excess got tangled at the break and charged headlong for the lead, there was little hope. Ayanna was gone before they hit the stretch. She was eventually eased.
For a filly who has already held her own with standouts like Tempera and Habibti, the Oak Leaf was too bad to be true. The seven-furlong Moccasin was definitely more like it. When the gates flew so did Ayanna, and the Arizona-bred promptly tore through a :45.08 half before slamming the door for good turning for home. Ponche de Leona, recent winner of Oak Tree's Anoakia Stakes, was second. The final time was 1:23.45.
Bred and owned by Triple AAA Ranch, Ayanna will get another crack at two turns in the Dec. 16 Hollywood Starlet (gr. I).
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